The smoke rose lazily over the ashes in the tray. They should be floating that easy. They didn’t have bills to pay. I did. My name is Detective Mick, so my door tells me, and most of my bills pay for my three T’s; Tobacco, Tequila, and Teresa. The second two often have a grand old time collecting together.
I’m a private eye. I solve the crimes that are brought to me, and ignore the ones that don’t pay. That would explain why they threw my hindquarters out of the force. They called me corrupt but I’d prefer to call myself a business man. I don’t get enough cases, unless you count the ones at the clinic that I receive from Teresa. That’s not a fact I give out very often, so consider yourself lucky for hearing it. I don’t give out too many facts in general. Secret facts are what my business is founded on, my own personal 11 herbs and spices.
It was about the thirteenth time I had recrossed my legs over my desk that day when she walked in. She was tall, like they all are. I think I’ve only had three women clients under five foot eight, and they were only looking for their lost kitten. It was a damn hard shame to collect those eighty seven cents from those girls for finding the late Mittens in the street down the road. I work with what I can get. But back to this vision gliding into my office like she was on roller skates. Tall, like I said, with blond curls bouncing down to her high collar. Under her shoulders was what looked like a half-open dresser drawer wearing a stark-white shirt, and before long was a skirt that would have been tasteful at any state dinner. Any state dinner that took place in the seediest dive in town, that is. I’m usually pretty good with words, but these legs rendered me speechless. That’s not entirely true, I suppose.
“Buhhh,” I said, struggling to stand while my feet were still propped up on the desk. She didn’t look fazed. Girls like this one standing in my office aren’t often fazed by anything, much less positive attention from the type of guy I am. You know my type, five o’clock shadow since 8 PM last night, and the bags under the eyes to prove it. My fedora was still tipped far forward on my face, sending my face into shadow. I like it that way, so this dame couldn’t tell what I was thinking. So she couldn’t see my eyes, still working on getting past her knees. Maybe once I did I could pay attention to the sentence she had begun some time ago.
“… and I need you to find it,” she finished, throwing several photographs onto my desk, which spread as they landed. Unfortunately for me and my lonely, cold bed, they weren’t of her self-shot modeling pictures, and instead were black and white photos of an expensive ring mounted with an even more expensive rock.
So she was married, or at least looking to get that way. I should have thrown her out of my office at that very moment, but something about the way that diamond was big enough to choke a goat made me think again. It was probably the family of mice that had made a home in my wall safe that pushed me over the edge.
“I’ll take the case. $200 a day, and a $500 bonus when I get it back for you,” I said, once again placing my feet up on the desk. With my hat tilted forward and my feet up, I looked the perfect balance of casual and invincible. That is, until I tipped the chair a bit too far back and flailed more desperately than I had been when I painted my name on that door.
Luckily, I handle those situations like a professional, and she didn’t even notice. It also might have been her digging in her purse that was deep enough to double as my entire luggage set that kept her attention at bay. When she finally came back from the bottom of that designer chasm, she held a piece of paper at the tip of a pen.
“I would start here,” she said, writing furiously. Leaning forward to place the paper on the hard surface of my desk, I saw that her shirt wasn’t hiding the dresser door I expected, but instead a body full enough to intimidate an Irish alcoholic. Luckily, I’m Dutch and we prefer our ales pale.
I took the paper as she handed it over. Her handwriting was impeccable as the default setting on a typewriter, and as I read it I could hardly tell the difference.
“742 Spooner St.” it read. I looked up at her with what I hoped was a calm quizzical eyebrow, but it unfortunately rose to the top of my head like the smoke from my burned-out cigarette had floated towards the ceiling.
“Can I ask what I’m going to find here? Usually when I get sent to anonymous addresses, there’s a man with a club waiting for me, and it’s a surprise party,” I said, speaking from experience.
She stared straight at me, and I felt those hazel eyes bore all the way to my gut. Maybe a little bit further south, but that’s not a story for polite company. I don’t know what she was looking for. Probably character, they always look for that. She was likely to be disappointed. My character only got featured in one kind of story, and that was the kind on the front page.
“That’s the shop where I pawned it,” she said, and my heart burst out of my chest from sheer misplaced hope. Imagine my surprise when I had to cram the poor bastard back in my chest like a parachutist whose backpack opened when he’s still on the ground. “And I need to you to trace it to get it back for me,” she finished.
“Change your mind?” I asked, coy as ever. If she had dumped her beau once, then maybe in a few months she could dump me too.
“No, he did.”
“Rough stuff. Sounds like a jerk to me,” I offered. The best way to secure a girl is to sow seeds of dissatisfaction in her current boyfriend, or so I had convinced myself.
She didn’t answer, and only turned as if to leave. With a not so polite cough, I stuck out my hand like a valet driver who somehow secured tenure. “I believe you owe me $200. The case starts today.”
With a sigh heavy enough to sink to the floor, she turned back and once again started spelunking into her bag. When she returned, she held a check book, and quickly scribbled out my payment. She quickly turned on a heel, and grabbed the doorknob. Coming to a stark realization, I spoke aloud for the last time before she left.
“What’s your name?”
She turned, beautiful curls gently spinning around her head. I saw the dress stretch to the seams as the focus of the garment spun about. “Catherine Von Werner,” she said, used to receiving respect at the name. Then she opened the door and let the frosted glass rattle in its pane as it closed quicker than my window to win this dame over.I sat back in my chair. Just my luck. Dealing with a Von Werner. I pushed my hat over my eyes and put my feet on my desk. At $200 a day, that family could afford to pay for me to catch up on sleep.